Not On Purpose: 6 Times Parody Highlighted Problems with Purpose

Done well, a tongue-in-cheek approach can excel with consumers. It can be entertaining, and it can help establish a feeling of your brand as one that’s upfront, honest, and refreshingly human. We bring you six of the most memorable parody ads in recent history...

Promoting purpose can be a great way to get behind something bigger than just business. However, there’s a fine line to tread between being authentic and being disingenuous.

In the face of so much purpose-driven marketing, some brands have taken it upon themselves to poke fun at brands who profess to care, but don’t back it up with any real change in their company. In a way, this becomes its own kind of purpose, with the brand taking a stand against insincerity.

Done well, a tongue-in-cheek approach can excel with consumers. It can be entertaining, and it can help establish a feeling of your brand as one that’s upfront, honest, and refreshingly human. If you’re criticising a brand’s lack of purpose, it also puts you in a good position to take a more genuine stance, and put forward your own brand purpose.

Without further ado, we bring you six of the most memorable parody ads in recent history. Some have a giggle at other brand’s insincere attempts at purpose, or their sheer lack of purpose at all.

1.  Ford brings down Cadillac

Cadillac’s 2014 Super Bowl ad aimed to tie their cars to the values of good old fashioned hard work. Which is pretty tough to do when their cars cost almost as much as some people’s houses, and the guy delivering the speech is an overpaid white male actor.

Thankfully, Ford did a stellar job of taking them down, and showing them up with a good brand purpose message…

The ad, starring Pashon Murray who founded Detroit Dirt (a sustainability consultancy and advocacy group) was lauded by Adweek who were gleeful that “someone has finally lampooned Cadillac’s much-derided ‘Poolside’ commercial”. Ford described the video as “lighthearted” and emphasised their desire to “showcase positive work being done in the community.”

2. Fake first kiss, real first snog

Remember that heartwarming film that surfaced on Youtube of people meeting for the first time and being asked to kiss?

It was awkward and beautiful, spontaneous and… fake? Yes, sadly, soon after the film came out, it was revealed to be an advert for a clothing company using actors and models.

Love and magic may have been ruined somewhat, but Snog spotted the perfect way to save the day by taking the mick…

Given that the Wren clothes’ first kiss video was most watched video ad of the year, jumping on the bandwagon made Snog look nimble and up for a laugh.

3. Do you really mean that?

Heineken’s ‘Open Your World’ campaign took the advertising world by storm. It was heartwarming, and it saw Heineken beer become the lynchpin of meaningful discussions; brand was quite literally facilitating purpose.

Oasis, though, smelt a rat. They saw the ad as a simple branding stunt, as if Heineken was using social issues as a money maker.

It was in that spirit that they ripped the advert off in brazen style…

It strikes a no bullsh*t tone: they’re not doing anything admirable, but at least they’re honest about it. And when Heineken followed ‘Open Your World’ with their ad called ‘Sometimes Lighter Is Better’ advert (which offended many, and was pointed out as “terribly racist” by Chance the Rapper) it seems Oasis were onto something.

Natalie Whitehead-Farr, Oasis’s senior brand manager notes that “Each piece of content pokes a bit of fun at a modern trend and delivers an Oasis perspective… We think this humorous approach will really resonate with Oasis consumers of all ages.”

4. Everyone’s favourite target

Apple take their brand purpose very seriously.

They stand for innovation and progress, beauty and design. They’re not coy about it, either. With earnest ads insisting on the often baffling tech specs, Apple’s ads don’t aim to be humorous. Which makes them a rather enjoyable target for brands who take themselves slightly less seriously…

Ikea have a grand old time mimicking the hi-tech Apple format, all to advertise… a book. Not a macbook pro. Not even a macbook. Just a book.

Tinus Strydom, creative director at BBH Asia Pacific spoke of the campaign’s success: “It’s struck the right notes with a global audience which is great, and because of IKEA’s global distribution of the catalogue the campaign has struck a chord with fans well beyond the initial campaign home of Singapore and Malaysia.“Just search #bookbook, especially on Instagram to see the spontaneous uptake of the idea in action.”

Meanwhile, Samsung has a laugh at Apple’s expense over the fallibility of their products—how easily they break, and how often they’re behind the android curve—despite their brand purpose being directly the opposite of this.

5. Flipping the script

In countries where water from the tap is perfectly drinkable, bottled water manufacturers are spinning a great yarn. Still, people shell out several pounds on their Evian or Volvic, often entirely for brand alone.

While it’s an impressive feat of marketing, it’s also quite funny. The trope of yoga-practising, wellness-obsessing bottled water drinkers was particularly entertaining to Liquid Death, who decided to parody it to sell their own brand of ‘dangerous’ water.

After just two months, with only $600 in paid media, the video had garnered 1.2 million views on Facebook. Founder, Mike Cessario, revealed that it was “crushing” major brands like Monster, Red Bull and bottled water providers in terms of shares, likes, and engagement stats.

6. Big words and beautiful images

Every day we’re flooded with pictures of far off places, amazing innovations, fascinating new concepts—much of it from advertising. Brands old and new shove their purpose in our faces via big (but vague) words, and cool (but generic) images. Sometimes it all gets so aspirational, these brands could almost be advertising anything.

It’s an observation that Tide and Dissolve ran with, producing these hilarious parodies of generic, purpose driven ads…

As of the third quarter of the Super Bowl, it had been tweeted more than any Super Bowl ad that wasn’t a movie trailer, according to Amobee. It went on to win the Film Grand Prix and Titanium at Cannes, and was universally accepted to have won the ad battle at that year’s Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, Dissolve showcased the effectiveness of their stock images in advertising just about anything.

Dissolve won the 2015 Shorty Award for Best in B2B for this ad: clearly their strike at humour really paid off!

If you’re looking to switch things up in your marketing strategy, and want to get the tone right, speak to us today to find out how to tickle consumers’ funny bones.


Content Team 

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